Commissioner Of Income Tax Xvii vs Hutchison Essar Telecom Ltd on 31 October, 2008

Delhi High Court
Commissioner Of Income Tax Xvii vs Hutchison Essar Telecom Ltd on 31 October, 2008
Author: Badar Durrez Ahmed
             THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI

%                             Judgment delivered on: 31.10.2008

+                      I.T.A. 1120/2007

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX                           ....Petitioner

                             - Versus -

BHARTI CELLULAR LTD                                  ...Respondent

WITH

+ I.T.A. 697/2008

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME
TAX (TDS) …Petitioner
Versus

ESCOTEL MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
LIMITED …Respondent

WITH

+ I.T.A. 1177/2007

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX XVII …Petitioner

Versus

HUTCHISON ESSAR TELECOM LTD …Respondent

WITH

+ I.T.A.1020/2008

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX …Petitioner

Versus

ESCOTEL MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS …. Respondent

WITH

+ I.T.A. 698/2008

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX …Petitioner

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.1 of 21
Versus

ESCOTEL MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
LIMITED …Respondent.


                          WITH

+                         ITA 1154/2007

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX                   ... Petitioner

                       - Versus -

BHARTI CELLULAR LTD                          ...Respondent

                             WITH

+                         I.T.A. 1155/2007

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX                     ... Petitioner

                       - Versus -

BHARTI CELLULAR LTD                            ...Respondent

                          WITH

+                         I.T.A. 1129/2007

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX                     ... Petitioner

                       - Versus -

BHARTI CELLULAR LTD                            ...Respondent

                          WITH

+                         I.T.A1159/2007

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX                     ... Petitioner

                       - Versus -

BHARTI CELLULAR LTD                            ...Respondent

                          WITH




ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors                                      Page No.2 of 21
 +                                   I.T.A. 1135/2007

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX                                  ... Petitioner

                                - Versus -

BHARTI CELLULAR LTD                                         ...Respondent

                                    WITH

+                                   I.T.A. 1171/2007

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX                                  ... Petitioner

                                - Versus -

BHARTI CELLULAR LTD                                         ...Respondent

                                    WITH

+                                   I.T.A. 1121/2007

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX                                   ....Petitioner

                                - Versus -

BHARTI CELLULAR LTD                                         ...Respondent


Advocates who appeared in this case:
For the Appellant     Mrs Premlata Bansal in ITA 1120/07, 1020/08,

697/08 and 698/2008, 1121/07, 1171/07, 1135/07,
1159/07, 1129/07, 1155/07, 1154/07
Ms Rashmi Chopra in ITA 1177/2007

For the Respondent Mr Tarun Sharma in ITA 1177/2007, 1145/07.

Mr Kanan Kapur in ITA 1120/2007, 1121/07. 1171/07,
1159/07, 1129/07, 1155/07, 1154/07
None for respondents in ITA 1020/08, 697/08, 698/08.

CORAM:-

HON’BLE MR JUSTICE BADAR DURREZ AHMED
HON’BLE MR JUSTICE RAJIV SHAKHDHER.

1. Whether Reporters of local papers may be allowed to see
the judgment ? YES

2. To be referred to the Reporter or not ? YES

3. Whether the judgment should be reported in Digest ? YES

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.3 of 21
BADAR DURREZ AHMED, J

1. In all these appeals under Section 260A of the Income

Tax Act, 1961 (hereinafter referred to as ‗the said Act’), the

following substantial questions of law have been framed:-

(a) Whether the payments made by the assessee to the
MTNL/other companies for the services provided
through interconnect/port/access/toll were liable for
tax deduction at source in view of the provisions of
section 194J of the Act?

(b) Whether the Ld. ITAT erred in holding that the
payment for use of services for MTNL/other
companies via the interconnect/port/access/toll by the
assessee would not fall within the purview of
payments as provided for under section 194J of the
Act, so as to be eligible for tax deduction at source?

2. The facts in all these appeals are similar. The

respondents/assessees in these appeals are companies engaged in the

business of providing cellular telephone facilities to their

subscribers. The assessees/respondents had been granted licences by

the Department of Telecommunication for operating in their

respective specified circles. The assessees are required to set up

their own equipments and necessary infrastructure for operating and

maintaining their networks. The licences granted to the assessees

stipulated that the Department of Telecommunication/MTNL/BSNL

would continue to operate in the service areas for which the licences

were issued. In respect of subscribers which fell within the specified

circles of the assessees, the calls would be handled exclusively

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.4 of 21
through the assessees’ own networks. However, where calls were to

be made by subscribers of one network to another network, such

calls are necessarily to be routed through MTNL/BSNL. The inter

connection between the two networks is provided by MTNL/BSNL

at interconnection points known as Ports. For the purposes of

providing this interconnection, the assessees have entered into

agreements with MTNL/BSNL etc. The agreements are regulated by

the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). Under these

agreements, the assessees/respondents are required to pay

interconnection, access charges and port charges. As per the policy

document of TRAI, interconnection has been understood to mean the

commercial and technical arrangements under which service

providers connect their equipments, networks and services to enable

their customers to have access to the customers, services and

networks of other service providers. Interconnection charges are

paid by the interconnection seeker to the interconnection provider.

3. The manner in which this system works can be explained

by examples.

Example 1: Assume that subscriber ―A‖ of Airtel intends to call

subscriber ―X‖ of MTNL within New Delhi. Subscriber ―A’s call

which originates within the circle of Airtel would have to be handed

over (through interconnection) to MTNL’s network so as to reach

subscriber ―X‖. In such a case, while Airtel would recover the

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.5 of 21
normal call charges from its subscriber ―A‖, it would have to pay a

part of it to MTNL for its inter-connect usage charges.

Example 2: Assume that subscriber ―A‖ of IDEA in Maharashtra

wants to make a call to subscriber ―B‖ of Airtel at New Delhi. The

call would originate within the IDEA network in Maharashtra and

would have to be inter-connected with BSNL (being the national

long distance service provider) which would carry the call to the

Airtel Delhi network and after interconnection would be transferred

to the subscriber ―B‖ of Airtel, Delhi. In such a case, following the

principle of the inter-connect seeker paying the charges to the inter-

connect provider, Airtel – Delhi would raise an invoice for inter-

connect charges on BSNL which, in turn, would raise an invoice on

IDEA (Maharashtra) for the national long distance inter-connect

charges. IDEA (Maharashtra) would recover the normal call charges

from its subscriber ―A‖ and make the payment to BSNL as per the

invoice for the national long distance inter-connect charges. BSNL,

in turn, would make the payment to Airtel (Delhi) for the local inter-

connect charges.

4. From the above examples, it is clear that MTNL/BSNL or

other companies providing the interconnection access/ports are

entitled to charge those networks which seek such

interconnection/port access facility for completing their calls. The

questions which have been framed in these appeals are related to the

nature of these charges. According to the Revenue, the said

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.6 of 21
interconnect/port access charges are liable for tax deduction at

source in view of the provisions of Section 194J of the said Act and

that these interconnect/port access charges are in the nature of fees

for technical services.

5. In the present appeals, it is the case of the Revenue that

the assessees were liable to deduct tax at source when they made the

payments in respect of the inter-connect/port access charges. It was

contended before us that the non-deduction/short deduction under

section 201 (1) of the said Act is not required to be made good by the

assessee inasmuch as MTNL/BSNL/other companies who would

have been the deductees, have already declared receipts of the

payments made by the assessees in their respective returns of income

tax and have paid the entire tax. The learned counsel for the

Appellant however, contended that the respondents/assessees were

liable to pay interest under section 201 (1A) of the said Act, as they

had not deducted tax at source which they were liable to deduct

under section 194J in respect of the payments made by them to

MTNL/BSNL/other companies for inter-connect/port access charges

as the same were fees for technical services. According to the

learned counsel, the provision of the interconnect/port access facility

was itself a service. According to her, the agreement between the

parties themselves described the arrangement as providing

telecommunication services. It was then contended that since the

services were of a technical nature in the sense that it was connected

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.7 of 21
with the use of machinery involving expertise, skill and technical

knowledge, the charges paid by the respondents/assessees were

nothing but fees for technical services.

6. On the other hand, the counsel appearing on behalf of the

respondents submitted that the payments made by the respondents to

MTNL/other companies in respect of interconnect/port/access

charges were not covered within the expression ―fees for technical

services‖ as used in section 194J of the said Act. They submitted

that their case was clearly covered by the decision of the Madras

High Court in the case of Skycell Communications Ltd. and

Another v. Deputy Commissioner of Income-tax and others:

[2001] 251 ITR 53 (Mad), wherein the payment made by a

subscriber to the provider of cellular mobile facility was held not to

amount to fees for technical services within the meaning of Section

194J read with Section 9 (1) (vii), Explanation 2 of the said Act. It

was contended that the mere collection of a fee for use of a standard

facility provided to all those willing to pay for it does not amount to

the fee having been received for ―technical services.‖ It was also

contended that unless and until, there is an element of human

interface, the facility of interconnection/port access cannot be

regarded as a technical service. Reliance were also placed on an

earlier decision of this Court in the case of J.K. (Bombay) Ltd v

Central BVoard of Direct Taxes and Anr : (1979) 118 ITR 312,

which has considered the expression ―technical service‖ within the

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.8 of 21
context of Section 80-O. It was contended that in the said decision,

it was pointed out that ―technical service‖ has two components. The

first is the use of tools and the second being the application of human

reason to the properties of matter and energy. It was, therefore,

contended that unless and until the element of human interface was

present, the facility provided by the MTNL/other companies could

not be regarded as a ―technical service‖.

7. It was also contended that since the expression ―fee for

technical service‖ as appearing in Section 194J, is to be construed in

the same manner as given in Explanation 2 of Section 9 (1) (vii) of

the said Act, the entire expression ―managerial, technical or

consultancy services‖ would have to be considered. Thus, the word

―technical‖ would take colour from the words ―managerial” and

―consultancy‖ and cannot be considered in the general or wider

sense. Since both managerial and consultancy services, by their

very nature, involve a human element, the technical services which

are relevant for the purpose of Section 194J would be those technical

services which involve human interface/element.

8. It was also contended on behalf of the respondents that

the entire process of making a call and switching the call from one

network to the other is done automatically on the basis of machines

without the provisions of any service by human beings. Therefore, it

was submitted on behalf of the respondents, the interconnect/port

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.9 of 21
access facility cannot be regarded as a technical service.

Consequently, the payments made for such interconnect/port access

charges could not fall within the meaning of ―fees for technical

service‖ as used in Section 194J of the said Act.

9. In rejoinder, the learned counsel for the

Appellant/Revenue submitted that the decision of the Madras High

Court in the case of Skycell (supra) is clearly distinguishable. She

submitted that in the case of Skycell (supra), the payments which

were under contemplation, were the payments by individual

subscribers to their respective cellular mobile service providers,

whereas in the present appeals, the payments in question are those

made by the cellular mobile service providers to MTNL/other

companies for interconnect/port access charges. Consequently, she

submitted that the decision of the Tribunal in holding that the

payments made to MTNL/other companies in respect of the

interconnect/port access charges were outside the purview of Section

194J of the said Act, was not correct in law. She contended that the

Tribunal, having followed the decision of the Madras High Court in

the case of Skycell (supra), had erred in law inasmuch as that

decision was clearly distinguishable.

10. Section 194J which relates to ―fees for professional or

technical services‖, so much as is relevant, reads as under:-

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.10 of 21

“194J. (1) Any person, not being an individual or a
Hindu undivided family, who is responsible for paying
to a resident any sum by way of–

               (a)     fees for professional services, or
               (b)     fees for technical services,

                        xxxx        xxxx       xxxx        xxxx

shall, at the time of credit of such sum to the account of
the payee or at the time of payment thereof in cash or by
issue of a cheque or draft or by any other mode,
whichever is earlier, deduct an amount equal to five per
cent of such sum as income-tax on income comprised
therein :

xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx

Explanation.–For the purposes of this section,–

(a) ―professional services‖ means services rendered
by a person in the course of carrying on legal,
medical, engineering or architectural profession
or the profession of accountancy or technical
consultancy or interior decoration or advertising
or such other profession as is notified by the
Board for the purposes of section 44AA or of
this section;

(b) ―fees for technical services‖ shall have the same
meaning as in Explanation 2 to clause (vii) of
sub-section (1) of section 9;

xxx xxx xxx xxx”

11. It is apparent that in respect of fees for technical services

tax is to be deducted at source at 5% (as it then was). It is also clear

that the expression ―fees for technical services‖ has the same

meaning as in Explanation 2 to clause (vii) of sub-section (1) of

Section 9. The said Explanation 2 reads as under:-

Explanation 2.–For the purposes of this clause, ―fees
for technical services‖ means any consideration
(including any lump sum consideration) for the

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.11 of 21
rendering of any managerial, technical or consultancy
services (including the provision of services of
technical or other personnel) but does not include
consideration for any construction, assembly, mining
or like project undertaken by the recipient or
consideration which would be income of the recipient
chargeable under the head ―Salaries‖.

The aforesaid explanation makes it clear that ―fees for technical

services‖ means any consideration (including any lump sum

consideration) for the rendering of any ―managerial, technical or

consultancy services‖ but does not include consideration for any

construction, assembly, mining or like products in the country by the

recipients or consideration which would be income of the recipients

chargeable under the head ―salaries‖. The said definition is in two

parts. The first part is ―means and includes‖ type of definition and

the second part is ―does not include‖ definition. In the present

appeals we are not concerned with the second part. The entire focus

is on attracted to the first part and that, too, to the expression

“consideration …. for the rendering of any managerial, technical

for consultancy services.” It is only if the payments made by the

respondents/assessees to MTNL/other companies in respect of

interconnect/port access charges fall within the ambit of this

expression that the said payments could be regarded as fees for

technical services as contemplated under Section 194J of the said

Act.

12. In Skycell (supra), a learned single judge of the Madras

High Court noted that installation and operatrion of sophisticated

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.12 of 21
equipments with a view to earn income by allowing customers to

avail of the benefit of the user of such equipment does not result in

the provision of technical service to the customer for a fee. It was

also held that technical service referred to in Explanation 2 to

Section 9 (1) (vii) contemplated the rendering of a ―service‖ to the

payer of the fee and that mere collection of a ―fee‖ for use of a

standard facility provided to all those willing to pay for it did not

amount to the fee having been received for technical services. We

find ourselves to be in agreement with the views expressed by the

learned single Judge of the Madras High Court in Skycell (supra).

However, we still have to deal with the submissions made by the

learned counsel for the Appellants/Revenue that the payments that

were considered in the case of Skycell (supra) were those made by a

subscriber to the cellular mobile telephone facility provider and not

by one cellular network provider to another. For this purpose, we

must examine the appeals at hand de hors the decision of the Madras

High Court in Skycell (supra).

13. We have already pointed out that the expression ―fees for

technical services‖ as appearing in section 194J of the said Act has

the same meaning as given to the expression in Explanation 2 to

section 9 (1) (vii) of the said Act. In the said Explanation the

expression ―fees for technical services‖ means any consideration for

rendering of any ―managerial, technical or consultancy services‖.

The word ―technical‖ is preceded by the word ―managerial‖ and

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.13 of 21
succeeded by the word ―consultancy‖. Since the expression

―technical services‖ is in doubt and is unclear, the rule of noscitur a

sociis is clearly applicable. The said rule is explained in Maxwell on

The Interpretation of Statutes (Twelfth Edition) in the following

words:-

―Where two or more words which are susceptible of
analogous meaning are coupled together, noscitur a
sociis, they are understood to be used in their cognate
sense. They take, as it were, their colour from each
other, the meaning of the more general being restricted to
a sense analogous to that of the less general.‖

This would mean that the word ―technical‖ would take colour from

the words ―managerial‖ and ―consultancy‖, between which it is

sandwiched. The word ―managerial‖ has been defined in the Shorter

Oxford English Dictionary, Fifth Edition as:-

―of pertaining to, or characteristic of a manager, esp. a
professional manager of or within an organization,
business, establishment, etc.‖

The word ―manager‖ has been defined, inter alia, as:-

―a person whose office it is to manage an organization,
business establishment, or public institution, or part of
one; a person with the primarily executive or
supervisory function within an organization etc; a
person controlling the activities of a person or team in
sports, entertainment, etc.‖

It is, therefore, clear that a managerial service would be one which

pertains to or has the characteristic of a manager. It is obvious that

the expression ―manager‖ and consequently ―managerial service‖ has

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.14 of 21
a definite human element attached to it. To put it bluntly, a machine

cannot be a manager.

14. Similarly, the word ―consultancy‖ has been defined in the

said Dictionary as ―the work or position of a consultant; a

department of consultants.‖ ―Consultant‖ itself has been defined,

inter alia, as ―a person who gives professional advice or services in a

specialized field.‖ It is obvious that the word ―consultant‖ is a

derivative of the word ―consult‖ which entails deliberations,

consideration, conferring with someone, conferring about or upon a

matter. Consult has also been defined in the said Dictionary as ―ask

advice for, seek counsel or a professional opinion from; refer to (a

source of information); seek permission or approval from for a

proposed action‖. It is obvious that the service of consultancy also

necessarily entails human intervention. The consultant, who

provides the consultancy service, has to be a human being. A

machine cannot be regarded as a consultant.

15. From the above discussion, it is apparent that both the

words ―managerial‖ and ―consultancy‖ involve a human element.

And, both, managerial service and consultancy service, are provided

by humans. Consequently, applying the rule of noscitur a sociis, the

word ―technical‖ as appearing in Explanation 2 to Section 9 (1) (vii)

would also have to be construed as involving a human element. But,

the facility provided by MTNL/other companies for

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.15 of 21
interconnection/port access is one which is provided automatically

by machines. It is independently provided by the use of technology

and that too, sophisticated technology, but that does not mean that

MTNL/other companies which provide such facilities are rendering

any technical services as contemplated in Explanation 2 to Section 9

(1) (vii) of the said Act. This is so because the expression ―technical

services‖ takes colour from the expressions ―managerial services‖

and ―consultancy services‖ which necessarily involve a human

element or, what is now days fashionably called, human interface.

In the facts of the present appeals, the services rendered qua

interconnection/Port access do not involve any human interface and,

therefore, the same cannot be regarded as ―technical services‖ as

contemplated under Section 194J of the said Act.

16. Since we have applied the rule of noscitur a sociis, it

would be necessary to indicate that this rule or principle has been

applied and accepted by the Supreme Court whenever the meaning of

a word, which falls within a group of words, is unclear and the

intention of the legislature is doubtful. In Godfrey Phillips India

Ltd and Another v. State of U.P. and Others: (2005) 2 SCC 515, a

Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court was considering the

meaning of the word ―Luxuries‖ as appearing in Entry 62 of the List

II of the VIIth Schedule to the Constitution which empowers the State

Legislature to make laws with respect to ―taxes on luxuries including

taxes on entertainment, amusement, betting and gambling.‖ The

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.16 of 21
Supreme Court was of the view that the general meaning of ―luxury‖

had been explained or clarified and must be understood in a sense

analogous to that of the less general words such as ―entertainment‖,

―amusements‖, ―gambling‖ and ―betting‖, which were clubbed with

it. The Supreme Court, employing the said principle of noscitur a

sociis, noted that this principle of interpretation had received the

approval of the Supreme Court in an earlier decision in Rainbow

Steels Ltd. v. CST: (1981) 2 SCC 141. The Supreme Court also

noted that earlier, indiscriminate application of this rule was doubted

in the case of The State of Bombay v. The Hospital Mazdoor

Sabha: AIR 1960 SC 610. However, after referring to the said

decision (Hospital Mazdoor Sabha), the Supreme Court in Godfrey

Phillips India Ltd (supra) observed that they did not read the said

decision as excluding the application of the principle of noscitur a

sociis to the case before them inasmuch as it had been amply

demonstrated that the word ―luxury‖ in Entry 62 was doubtful and

had been defined and construed in different senses. The Supreme

Court further observed as under:-

―81. We are aware that the maxim of noscitur a sociis
may be a treacherous one unless the “societas” to which
the “socii” belong, are known. The risk may be present
when there is no other factor except contiguity to
suggest the “societas”. But where there is, as here, a
term of wide denotation which is not free from
ambiguity, the addition of the words such as ―including‖
is sufficiently indicative of the societas. As we have
said, the word ―includes‖ in the present context
indicates a commonality or shared features or attributes
of the including word with the included.‖

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.17 of 21

17. In the appeals before us it is obvious that the meaning of

the expression ―technical services‖ by itself, is far from clear. It is

also clear that the word ―technical‖ has been used in the ―society‖ of

the words ―managerial‖ and ―consultancy‖. In such a situation, the

rule would clearly apply and, therefore, the expression ―technical

services‖ would have to take colour from the expressions

―managerial services‖ and ―consultancy services.‖

18. To conclude the discussion on the application of the rule

of noscitur a sociis, we think that a reference to the Supreme Court

decision in the case of Stonecraft Enterprises v. Commissioner of

Income Tax: (1999) 3 SCC 343 would be apposite. In that case the

Supreme Court was required to interpret the provisions of Section

80-HHC (2) (b) of the said Act relating to assessment years 1985-86,

1987-88 and 1988-89. In the said sub-section (2) (b) of Section 80-

HHC, it was provided that the Section did not apply to the following

goods or merchandise, namely:-

(i) mineral oil; and

(ii) minerals and ores.

The question that arose before the Supreme Court was whether

granite fell within the meaning of the word ―minerals‖. The

contention of the assessee before the Supreme Court was that while

Granite was a mineral in the general sense, it was not a mineral for

the purposes of Section 80-HHC and, therefore, the deduction

provided for therein was available to the assessee who was in the

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.18 of 21
business of exporting granite. The Supreme Court noted the

arguments of the learned counsel for the assessee based upon the

doctrine of noscitur a sociis that the word ―minerals‖ in Section 80-

HHC should be read in the context of the words ―ores‖ which it was

associated with and must draw colour therefrom. It was submitted

that the word ―minerals‖ must be read as referring only to such

minerals as are extracted from ores and not others. While the

Supreme Court agreed that the doctrine of noscitur a sociis was

applicable, it held that the word ―minerals‖, in sub-section (2) (b) of

Section 80-HHC must be read in the context of both ―mineral oil‖

and ―ores‖ and not just ―ores‖. The Supreme Court held that these

three words taken together are intended to encompass all that may be

extracted from the earth. Consequently, the Supreme Court held that

all minerals extracted from the earth, granite included, must,

therefore, be held to be covered by the provisions of sub-section (2)

(b) of Section 80-HHC, and the exporter thereof was, therefore,

disentitled to the benefit of that section.

19. From this decision, it is apparent that the Supreme Court

employed the doctrine of noscitur a sociis and held that the word

―minerals‖ took colour from the words ―mineral oil which preceded

it and the word ―ores‖ which succeeded it. A somewhat similar

situation has arisen in the present appeals where the word ―technical‖

is preceded by the word ―managerial‖ and succeeded by the word

―consultancy‖. Therefore, the word ―technical‖ has to take colour

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.19 of 21
from the word ―managerial‖ and ―consultancy‖ and the three words

taken together are intended to apply to those services which involve

a human element. This concludes our discussion on the applicability

of the principle of noscitur a sociis.

20. Before concluding we would also like to point out that the

interconnect/port access facility is only a facility to use the gateway

and the network of MTNL/other companies. MTNL or other

companies do not provide any assistance or aid or help to the

respondents/assessees in managing, operating, setting up their

infrastructure and networks. No doubt, the facility of

interconnection and port access provided by MTNL/other companies

is `technical’ in the sense that it involves sophisticated technology.

The facility may even be construed as a `service’ in the broader sense

such as a `communication service’. But, when we are required to

interpret the expression `technical service’, the individual meaning

of the words `technical’ and `service’ have to be shed. And, only

the meaning of the whole expression `technical services’ has to be

seen. Moreover, the expression `technical service’ is not to be

construed in the abstract and general sense but in the narrower sense

as circumscribed by the expressions `managerial service’ and

`consultancy service’ as appearing in Explanation 2 to section 9 (1)

(vii) of the said Act. Considered in this light, the expression

`technical service’ would have reference to only technical service

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.20 of 21
rendered by a human. It would not include any service provided by

machines or robots.

21. Thus, it is clear, whether we follow the line of reasoning

taken in Skycell (supra) or not, the result is the same. The

interconnect charges/port access charges cannot be regarded as fees

for technical services. Consequently, both the questions are

answered against the Revenue and in favour of the assesses.

The appeals are dismissed. The parties are left to bear

their own costs.

BADAR DURREZ AHMED
(JUDGE)

RAJIV SHAKHDHER
(JUDGE)

October 31, 2008
J

ITA Nos.1120/07& Ors Page No.21 of 21

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